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Showing the Ropes

a CAPOW bakcstory short by Dare and Dot

This takes place somewhere between "Political Games" and "The Halloween Party"

     Talon knocked on Samui's door at 10:00 per her request. A few minutes later, Samui, dressed as she always was, opened the door.

     "Good morning, Talon-san," Samui greeted. "Ready to go?"

     Talon nodded. "Yeah."

     "Great. For starters, let's see how well that Locate materia of yours works." She reached into her pocket and pulled out a capsule. "Use this; I hardly ever part with it." Handing it off to Talon, she closed and locked her door.

     "Should I close my eyes and count to 30?" Talon half-joked.

     "Slowly," Samui answered.

     Talon fingered the purple materia linked to his bracer. Opening his mind, he imagined the flame once more, the flame that burned fiercely there. The flame consumed all, even the air and all that existed until there was nothing left, leaving just a void. When he had that void settled perfectly inside his mind, he squeezed the capsule in his hand, letting his mind open. He thought about Samui because that was all he could think about.

     Nothing. There was nothing. No direction or instinct. Usually it would have taken moments. But he stood like that for minutes before giving up. He scratched his head irritatedly, staring hard at the capsule. How was he going to track Samui if he had no direction to start from?

     What was he going to do now?


     The fire crackled in the small cave Talon had found several days after leaving Rodick. Outside, rain soaked the muddy ground and the blanket he set up served little protection against the cold air. He was filthy. His hair was matted with grime, his face caked with dry blood and his clothes soiled.

     He drifted in and out of sleep. Sometimes he dreamt of what happened at Rodick, nightmares really. Sometimes the boy visited him. "How could you let me die?" the boy accused Talon. "Why did you kill me?"

     "I didn't kill you!" he sobbed, "I tried to save you!"

     "If you hadn't been so blind with ambition to see what was going on, I'd have been alive. I would have been alive today. Instead, I'll haunt you for the rest of your life until you die or go insane. That's my revenge, Talon Gauss."

     "Talon Gauss," another voice repeated. "Talon!"

     Talon snapped out of his trance and saw a man standing before him. His blue suit and long scraggly hair was damp from the drizzle outside. It took a few moments of staring before he realized who the man was. Or rather who the man was from.

     "So, they sent you, huh?" Talon asked, a blank expression on his face. "How did you find me?"

     The man spoke in a professional sounding voice. "Captain Talon Gauss, military liason to Rodick and commanding officer of the Rodick barracks."

     "Shut up!" Talon snapped. He covered his ears and rocked back and forth. "I don't want to remember. Stop reminding me!"

     "He's here to kill you," the boy said, sitting opposite him, warming his hands on the fire. "He's here to make you pay!" There was a harshness to his tone. Then he smiled, staring at the fire. "Isn't it warm, Talon? Fire that burns, fire that destroys."

     "Shut up! Go away!" Talon shouted at the boy.

     "Talon, you've abandoned your post at Rodick and let the town turn into chaos. Our troops are still trying to quell the uproar."

     The former military captain continued sobbing. "I tried to save him, I tried. God, I tried. I didn't want it to be like that. I didn't know!"

     "How could you be so dumb, Talon?" the boy asked accusingly. "I told you, you were blind with pride and ambition. All you wanted was the prestige, to move up the ranks. Talon Gauss, you didn't give a damn about the people. You didn't give a damn about me!"

     "I did!" he cried.

     "Who are you talking to?" the blue-suited man asked. He shook his head desparigingly. "Captain Gauss, desertion is a major offense against the Corporation."

     The boy leaned closer, the flames reflected in his eyes. "You hear that, Talon? You're gonna hang for what you did. You're going to pay for your crimes!"

     Talon jumped up quickly, throwing away the blanket he was using for warmth. "No! I won't go!" He turned to the blue-suited man. "Who are you? Where'd you come from?"

     There was a long sigh. "Haven't you been listening?"

     "I'm not going back!" Talon lunged towards him. The man grabbed him in midair but their momentum carried them out into the rain. They rolled around the ground, Talon snarling wildly. The man got the advantage and rolling on top, delivered a few hits to Talon's face. The fight went out of Talon's eyes as the pain reeled into him. His body let up and he slumped to the ground for a few seconds.

     The cold rain immediately brought him back. His vision was blurry but the man was still straddling him. He got up off Talon and wiped some of the mud from his suit. Both of them were soaked. The man smoothed back his long hair and gave him a sympathetic look. "Talon, I read the report. I read your background. I'm not here to take you back, although that was what they had me do."


     "You were too young, not ready to take command of a town like Rodick. They just picked you because you seemed like someone eager for the job, willing to take it with no questions asked. I'm sorry for what happened at Rodick."

     "So what are you going to tell them?"

     "That I couldn't find you."

     "But you did."

     "I know," the man replied. He pulled out something from his vest. It was round and purple. "Which is why I want you to have this." He took Talon's hand and placed it in his palm. Talon felt a weird calmness flow into him. His breathing slowed and the pain dulled. He felt somewhat at ease.

     "What? What is this?" He stared at the orb breathlessly.

     "It's a Locate materia," the man said with a shrug. "It can be used to find people or things. It's how I found you. I want you to have it."


     "I don't know, start a new life. It bonds with you, you know. That's how it works. It becomes part of you. That's what they told me anyway, but I felt nothing special about it. They said you can use it to access different realities. Dimensions and all. Maybe it will work for you better than it did for me. But as long as you have it, at least it'll be hard to track you down." The man started to leave.

     Talon got up slowly, still groggy from the pummels he received. "Wait!" he shouted as the rain dripped down his face. "Wait, what's your name?"

     The man turned back. Talon swore he saw some regret in his dark eyes. "Vincent. Vincent Valentine of the Turks."


     Talon gripped the capsule tightly again. Access dimensions, Vincent had said. 'All right', he decided, 'let's see what you can do'.

     Closing his eyes, Talon once again brought up the void in his mind. This time, instead of searching out for a direction, he just searched. He opened his mind to the various possibilities of the universe, looking for wherever Samui might be. He felt something change. An energy peaked out before him. Daring to open his eyes, he saw a purple swirl of energy blink into existence.

     Talon looked around and stepped through. At one instant before, he was standing on the rooftop of the Uchwan apartment building in Capow. The next, he found himself before a large marble desk where a young receptionist with short blue hair and young eyes greeted him.

     "Uh..." Talon started, unable to find the words. "Where am I?"

     The young woman flipped through some papers on her large desk. "STRA headquarters," she answered casually. "You must be Talon Gauss, right? Namida-san is waiting for you upstairs."

     'Wherever this is, it sure isn't Capow,' Talon thought as he walked up the stairs. At the top, he found Samui standing by an office labled "Investigative Unit."

     "Here," he returned the capsule to its rightful owner.

     "I take it you had no problem finding this place?"

     "Not really, but it did get a bit hard to track you for a while back."

     "That's to be expected because this place is more like a subspace pocket than an actual physical location."

     Talon raised an eyebrow. "Subspace pocket?"

     "It's obviously a lot more complicated than that, but you really don't want to hear a five hour lecture on the finer points of dimension theory."

     "I'll take your word for it." Talon jabbed a thumb towards the office. "This where you work?"

     Samui nodded, and opened the door. "I'll introduce you to everyone."

     Various people uttered their greetings as Samui and Talon walked through the door.

     "Told you he'd be cute," one of them remarked just loudly enough for Talon to hear.

     The other frowned. "He's kinda old," she said in not nearly low enough voice.

     The former elbowed her. "I like older men."

     "These are my colleagues," Samui introduced, ignoring the comments, "whose names you don't need to know because you won't be coming here that often."

     "Ouch," someone winced.

     "If in the rare case that you do come in," Samui continued, "they'll do their best to embarrass you, in which case you should keep a straight face and think of a good comeback line."

     "So that's how you got your poker face," Talon joked.

     Samui quarter-smiled. "Practice makes perfect."

     A middle-aged woman entered the room, and the laughing died down substantially. "Good morning, Samui," she greeted, walking forward. "And this is Mr. Gauss, correct?"

     "The area supervisor, Junkin Itsuko," Samui introduced.

     Talon shook Itsuko's outstretched hand. "Pleased to meet you."

     "Will you be showing him around today?" Itsuko asked.

     Samui nodded. "If it's all right with you, I'd like to borrow a car."

     "No problem!" Itsuko guestured towards one of the others and they tossed Samui a set of keys.

     "Just bring it back in one piece this time, okay?" a voice in the back called out.

     "Where are we going?" Talon asked as Samui pulled the car out of the garage.

     "Nowhere in particular, just driving around." Samui took a right turn, and some familiar buildings began to come into view. "You've already had some experience traveling through dimensions, haven't you?"

     "I don't know," Talon replied, absently touching the Locate materia. "I wandered through various places, strange and different. Subconsciously I knew that I wasn't in my own world anymore, but I refused to except the possibility of what was happening. I let externalities steer my direction; eventually I stumbled into Capow."

     "Well, Capow is a nexus of sorts; all dimensions can travel in, out, and through it."

     "More complicated theory?" Talon guessed.

     Samui nodded. "Very complicated. Basically, though, you just head in the general direction of where you want to go, and you'll end up there. We unofficially call it 'The Hibiki Syndrome'."

     Hibiki. The name sounded familiar to Talon. He decided he must have heard it from somewhere. "I think that's sort of what I did. Just headed out. I call it 'walkabout'."

     "Walkabout?" asked Samui.

     "It's a technique I heard somewhere. You see, you walk and keep on walking until you meet yourself. Figuratively. But anyway, when you meet, you sit down and talk. You talk about all the things that has happened, talk about your mistakes, your goals. You just talk. And when you've talked so much and there's nothing left to say, you look up and find that the 'you' you were talking with is gone. You're whole again."

     The green-haired woman blinked. "I don't think I got all of that. So, Talon, have you met yourself yet?"

     He sighed and stared distantly out the window. "Out there, there's a part of me, waiting to be found, so we can sit and talk. Until I find him, the him that is me, I'll keep on searching."

     Talon glanced at the sideview mirror. Sitting in the backseat was the boy. He smiled grimly in the mirror. Talon craned his neck around but there was no one in the back seat. He looked back and forth between the mirror and the seat.

     "What's wrong?" Samui asked, keeping her eyes on the road.

     "Nothing," he said automatically.

     They were silent for a few moments before Samui decided to continue the dimensional crossing explanation. "Anyway, travelling realities even works without actually passing through Capow, but unless we're specifically permitted to do that, don't."

     Talon raised an eyebrow. "Why not?"

     "Most of the inhabitants of the dimensions don't know that other dimensions exists, and such knowledge in the wrong hands can be very dangerous. Which brings me to my next point: don't tell anybody that you work for us. Not only would we lose the element of surprise, but a lot of people would actually hinder our efforts."

     "But aren't you protecting them?"

     "Of course, but many people think that we're butting into things that are not our business. Some people even go as far as accuse us of being imperialists, but I don't blame them." Samui took a glance at the clock on the dashboard. "Say, are you hungry? I'll treat you for lunch."

     Talon was about to decline politely when his stomach defied him by growling loudly. "Er...that'd be great, thanks."

     "Hi! Welcome to Ucchan's!" The cook at the grill greeted cheerfully. "Oh, hi, Samui! Haven't seen you in a while!"

     "Hello, Kuonji-san," Samui nodded back slightly. "The usual, please."

     "Okonomiyaki?" Talon pronounced slowly, reading the menu on the wall. "What's that?"

     "What? You've never had okonomiyaki?" The cook looked almost hurt. She whipped her hands over the grillet and tossed something at Talon. "Try it. First one's on the house."

     Talon picked up the 'okonomiyaki' and took a tentative bite out of it. His eyes widened as a symphony of flavors assaulted his tastebuds: shrimp, onions, chives, garlic, and a variety of spices whose names he couldn't remember. "This is really good!" He exclaimed, finishing off the rest of the okonomiyaki in large, quick bites. "I'll take another one, please."

     "Sure, but I'm charging you for this one," the cook replied with a wink.

     The bell attached to the door rang, and a young, distintively non-Asian man with scruffy brown hair entered the restaurant. "Hey, Ucchan!"

     The cook winced. "Please don't call me that, Alex-san."

     "Why not?" Alex asked. "Ranma calls you that, doesn't he?"

     "Yes, but--"

     Alex pouted slightly. "But aren't I your friend?"

     The cook sighed. "I just met you two weeks ago, Alex-san."

     "Oh, right." Alex gave the cook a lopsided grin. "I'm sorry for being so forward, Ukyou." He hit himself on the head. "Er, Ukyou-san." He sat down at the counter. "Could you give me the biggest okonomiyaki you've got? I'm starving!" Sitting down next to Samui, he waited as Ukyou prepared the food. Turning to Samui, he extended his hand. "Hey, I don't think I've seen you around here before. Name's Alex."

     Samui only took Alex's fingers. "Hello. I suppose you are new in town as well."

     Alex nodded. "Yeah. I'm staying at the Tendo's for the rest of the school year." He made a face. "I've lost count of how many times Ranma can fall into that koi pond in the back yard."

     "The fish have long ago been scared out of their wits, I'm sure," Samui replied, not really looking at Alex. Alex, seeing that Samui was more or less ignoring him, turned his attention to his food. In a few moments, he had wolfed down the okonomiyaki.

     "Wonderful, as usual." He set down a bill. "Keep the change, Ucch-- Ukyou-san." He bounded out the door. "See you later!"

     After Alex left, Ukyou left out an exasperated sigh. "That guy is more persistent than Tsubasa! I've seen him try to get on Akane's good side, too. Come to think of it, I think he's hit on every one of Ranchan's other fiancees." She shuddered. "Even Kodachi."

     Samui raised an eyebrow. "Sounds like an Avatar."

     Talon blinked. "What's an 'avatar'?"

     "An Avatar," Ukyou spat with venom. "They're from some other dimension where we are in some TV show, and they think they've got the answers to all of our problems."

     Talon nodded sympathetically. "I think I can see why they can be a problem."

     "At the beginning, the STRA tried to force the Avatars back into their world," Samui explained. "But that endeaver quickly proved to be too difficult. After a long debate, it was decided that the Avatars would make contracts with the STRA. Currently, the policy on Avatars is: if they don't bother us, we don't bother them."

     "That guy sure as hell is bothering us," Ukyou mumbled sullenly.

     "Well, unless he's not licensed, I can't help you." Samui tapped her chin thoughtfully. "Which reminds me: a law was passed a little while ago requiring all characters to show identification if asked."

     Ukyou cheered up a bit. "So if he doesn't have ID, he's screwed."

     Samui shook her head. "Not yet. He'll have a month to apply for permission. After that, if he still doesn't have a license, then you can complain to the nearest office." She finished the last of her food, and, seeing that Talon had finished as well, paid for it and stood. "We have to go now, but I'll try to stop by later."

     "Are Avatars really as horrible as Ukyou said they are?" Talon asked as Samui began the drive again. "That Alex guy didn't seem to be too bad, aside from being a pain in the neck."

     "Of course not all of them are like that; some Avatars are even quite helpful in maintaining order. Still, there are Avatars that do things people wouldn't even begin to imagine thinking about, and they're the ones that give the Avatars a bad reputation."

     The scenery outside suddenly shifted, and Talon found himself staring at the barely recognizable ruins of Nerima. "What the--?"

     "Every dimension has an infinite number of 'alternate dimensions', where different possiblities are explored." Samui slowed the car to a stop. "Here, an Avatar lost control of his powers and destroyed everything. When he came to, and realized what he had done, he killed himself as well." Samui pointed to an Olympic pool-sized crater in the ground. "See that? It was made when the Avatar released his despair."

     Talon, even though he had never seen the Shishi Hokudan, had heard enough about it to know its power of devastation. "My god..."

     "A lot of people have lobbied to erase this dimension from existence, but it's not as simple as waving a magic wand and making things right again." Samui bowed her head, as if paying homage to those who had died. After a long silence, Samui shifted the car back into gear. "Let's go somewhere a bit more cheerful."

     Talon immediately recognized the high-quality housing as belonging to the Juuban district. Something in the back of his mind nagged at him about this place, but he couldn't quite remember what it was.

     At least, not until a large black mass jumped in front of the car.

     "Hang on!" Samui shouted, swerving to avoid the mass. Talon could almost hear the rubber being left on the asphalt as the car came to a screeching stop.

     Talon was about to ask what in the world was going on when he felt several people land on top of the car.

     "Causing accidents in the street is dangerous!" A young female voice declared. "As the protector of this city, I won't allow it! I am Sailor Moon, and in the name of the Moon, I'll punish you!"

     "Additionally, we, the Sailor Scouts, won't forgive you!" Four other young female voices chorused.

      Talon winced. 'Where in the world did those girls get such cheesy speeches?'

     Samui only very calmly rolled down the window and stuck her head out. "Could you kindly get off and let me move this out of the way? This car belongs to my supervisor, and she would have a fit if anything happened to it."

     "Oh, right," one of the voices (the first one) said, and laughed sheepishly.

     The car bounced slightly, and five girls wearing rather short skirts of varying colors landed on the street.

     "Thank you." Samui nodded slightly, and drove away.

     Talon looked around carefully. The girls were remarkably familiar and he had the feeling they had met before. But for the life of him, he could not recall who they were. "Why do I get the feeling I've been here before...?"

     "To protect their identities, the Senshi erase the memories of those involved in 'Youma' attacks," Samui explained.

     "Ah," he said automatically before pausing. "Wait, I was involved in an attack?" Samui didn't answer. Talon noticed that the buildings no longer looked familiar. "Where are we going now?"

     "Just a quick visit."

     "You look a bit old to be in elementary school, miss," Meiou Sestuna greeted with a smile.

     "Well, I got held back a few years," Samui replied. "Hello, Meiou-san."

     The two shook. "And hello to you, too, Talon Gauss."

     "Does every complete stranger know my name?" Talon remarked plainly as he took Setsuna's hand. Within the blink of an eye, Setsuna's clothes shifted into a fuku with a dark green skirt. Something in Talon's subconscious told him that the woman standing before him was actually Sailor Pluto, Guardian of Time.

     "Unlike the other Senshi, I'm always in uniform," Sailor Pluto explained. "What you saw before was merely an illusion."

     "..." Talon 'said', not really knowing what to say.

     Sailor Pluto chuckled and returned to her 'civilian' clothing. "That's one way to put it. Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to speak to Samui privately."

     "Sure." Talon left the clinic and closed the door behind him.

     Just as he walked outside, he saw two girls come down the hall, one with short dark purplish hair, the other with bright pink hair tied up like bunny ears. The girl with dark purple hair slowed to a stop as she came in front of him. Talon felt as if the girl was looking straight into his soul, and he couldn't wrench himself away.

     Unexpectedly, she smiled, and Talon felt himself being released from her gaze. "You're different, but you're okay." She turned her attention to her worried companion. "Let's go." The two continued their way to class as if nothing had happened.

     Before Talon had a chance to contemplate what happened, the door opened behind him, and Samui stepped out. "I'm sorry for taking so long, Talon. Shall we continue?" Following Talon's stare, Samui looked down the hall. "Ah, that was Hotaru-san and Little Lady."

     Something else clicked in his mind, and Talon 'remembered' the true identities of the two small girls. 'What the hell happened to me here?' he wondered.

     Samui looked at her watch. "Hmm...there's not much left...well, you'll have plenty of chances to visit the other worlds."

     "Welcome back!" Itsuko greeted as Talon and Samui walked back into the office, taking the keys that Samui handed to her. "Can I safely assume that the car is still in one piece?"

     "Yes, but the tires probably should be replaced."

     Itsuko held up a hand as Samui was about to continue. "Don't worry about it." She passed a manila folder to Samui. "Here, the updated reports."

     "Thank you." Samui immediately handed half of the folder's contents to Talon while she browsed through the other half.

     Talon raised an eyebrow as he came to a colorful flyer. "A Halloween Costume Party?" He skimmed through the report. "Looks like it's already starting to get quite interesting."

     "Setsuna-san said something about 'illusion becoming reality' that I should be on the lookout for..." Samui mused.

     "Is Setsuna working for STRA?" Talon asked outright but got no response from either anyone. He decided it was not information he was privy to and remained silent.

     Itsuko's eyes twinkled with amusement. "If you really want to go, just say so! I'm going myself."

     For a brief moment, Samui looked like she was blushing. In the blink of an eye, however, she was back to her normal non-expressive self. She bowed deeply. "Thank you."

     "No problem! Go and have a great time!"

Unnecessarily Long Authoress' Notes: A big thanks to Joseph for coming up with the name of Samui's supervisor. Even if this is probably the only time Itsuko shows up, at least she's not a nameless grunt. :)

Alex is just your typical fanboy Self-Insert character who may or may not appear again later.

In the Sailor Moon Manga, Setsuna works at Chibi-Usa's school as a nurse during the beginning of the Stars arc. (Dunno about the Anime, though.) Also, I call Chibi-Usa "Little Lady" instead of "Small Lady" because I think the former sounds better.

I've never eaten okonomiyaki before, so please forgive any error in describing how it tastes. For those of you who don't know, okonomiyaki is basically a pancake with whatever toppings in or on it. (In other words, a Japanese pizza. :)

Appended Authors' (male) note: 'Walkabout' is described in the self-named Babylon 5 episode where Dr. Franklin embarks on a journey to recover from a drug addiction.

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